Opinion: Reclaiming and reviving our world and ourselves with ‘fun-icity’

When people ask what I do for fun, I just shrug and hope they go away. Ever since the pandemic, my sense of fun has been in hiding, tucked away far beneath my observable traits. So when I did a book signing this past weekend, I was amazed how my "fun-icity" resurfaced and kept me smiling for hours.

People of all ages came through the book store — a fascinating collection of age, gender and race. There were folks walking with canes and others in gym wear. There were young couples and elderly ones eagerly checking out the books for sale.

Best of all, there were families with their children. The kids tried out the toys. I could hear a toddler behind me endlessly poking at a toy school bus and making it emit loud noises.

His parents sat on the floor next to him, enjoying his exploration of the world through this toy. I enjoyed it ,too. Then there was a group of pre-teen girls dressed in costumes including diamond tiaras. They walked purposefully throughout the store, negotiating on which games to buy.

One of my favorite moments was when a young girl came up to my table, stared at the photo of me on the sign, and then at my face. She concluded, "You look much older now."

It was truly a out-of-the-mouths-of-babes moment. I replied that some days I'm more successful being younger than others — that's how it works. She nodded and skipped away. I laughed out loud, especially when everyone around the table rushed to assure me that I really did look young. No need. I was amused, not offended.

And that's the attitude we need to nurture these days. We live in a world of anger, anxiety and depression in which having fun is an alien concept. But it doesn't have to be.

In talking with Savannah, who works in a lab drawing blood from patients, she emphasized the prevailing attitude was somber and sad. She said being professional and having fun were not mutually exclusive. Today's trauma-filled environment afflicts children especially and she is determined to deflect their fear. Telling jokes, asking silly questions, sharing personal goofy stories with kindness is her specialty. I'm sure her patients leave the lab smiling. I know that I did.

But there are few people as good as mixing professionalism with humor than my husband. Now a math teacher at age 81, he jokes around with his students incessantly. He asked a girl if she could fix his hair as beautifully as her own. Everybody laughed when a student in the back row chimed in, "Sir, you don't have any hair!" I wish that I'd had a combination of math teacher and stand-up-comic when I was in school. Maybe a dose of self-deprecating humor might have convinced me to go ahead and taken that calculus class after all.

Our lightheartedness, amusement and kindness need to be purposefully reclaimed and shared. It won't be easy given today's serious news. The economy is challenging. Our poverty rate is rising again. And the political atmosphere is downright poisonous. I'm tempted to hold my breath through the 2024 presidential election.

We all get discouraged, so your "fun-icity" is super vital. We need moments when we enjoy, inspire and make someone smile. So go do something fun, be amused — not insulted — and find your inner "fun-icity" so you, and all of us, can breathe!

Contact Deborah Levine, an author, trainer/coach and editor of the American Diversity Report, at deborah@ diversityreport.com.